Paid Sick Leave in Minnesota: Are You Covered?

June 13, 2019 – While paid sick leave is not a federal requirement, many U.S. states and cities have begun enacting laws requiring employers to provide paid sick and safe leave. Many cite the need to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees and the public as key drivers of these protections. Currently, eleven states and 20 major metropolitan cities require employers to provide some form of paid sick leave to employees.

While many Minnesota employers currently offer paid sick leave in the form of Paid Time Off (PTO), state law does not require either paid or unpaid leave. In fact, the Minneapolis City Council found that 41% of its employed residents are not provided any earned sick time by their employers. To that end, three of Minnesota’s largest cities—Minneapolis, St. Paul, and, soon, Duluth—are implementing new ordinances requiring covered employers to offer either unpaid or paid sick leave to eligible employees working in their geographies.

So, how will these ordinances affect you as an employee?

While there are similarities between each of the local ordinances, the requirements for eligibility, accrual and usage differ from city to city. To understand whether you and your employer are covered by the ordinance, contact one of our experienced employment lawyers to discuss your rights. The following outlines some of the provisions of each ordinance. (Note: These ordinances are relatively new and evolving at the local level and in the courts. Consult an attorney about possible changes.)

Minneapolis

Am I covered by the ordinance?

The Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time ordinance covers employees who work within the boundaries of Minneapolis for at least 80 hours per year. Employers must provide paid leave if they have six of more employees and unpaid leave if there are five or fewer employees. There is an exception for newer companies who are only required to provide unpaid leave in their first year of business. This exception will end five years from July 1, 2017.

What can I use sick leave for?

In addition to allowing employees to take time off to care for themselves and their family members in the event of illness or injury, employees may also take time off if: their child’s school has closed due to weather; they need or receive assistance for domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking; or the employee’s place of work has been closed by a public health official.

How is sick leave accrued?

At a minimum, the employer must provide one hour for every thirty hours worked, up to 48 hours of paid leave per year. Employees begin earning sick and safe time at the start of employment (or at the time the ordinance became effective). Exempt employees are deemed to work 40 hours per week, unless they work less than 40 hours per week and then hours earned will be based on actual hours worked. Employees can carry over unused sick and safe time to the following year, although the employer can limit that amount to 80 hours.

When can I start using my earned sick leave?

Employees can begin using their sick and safe time 90 days into their employment. Employers can set up the time increments to be used, but the increment must not exceed four hours. There is no cap on use of sick and safe time. If employees want to use their sick and safe time, and the use is foreseeable, employers can require that employees provide notice of up to seven days. However, if the use is not foreseeable, the employer can require notification as soon as practicable.

No Retaliation

An employer may not retaliate against employee for exercising or attempting to exercise their rights under the ordinance. Retaliation includes an act that would dissuade an employee from using an earned leave, including, but not limited to, adverse job, duty or hour changes, discipline or termination.

St. Paul

Am I covered by the ordinance?

Similar to Minneapolis, the St. Paul Earned Safe and Sick Time ordinance covers employees who work at least 80 hours per year within St. Paul’s geographic boundaries. However, unlike Minneapolis, the St. Paul ordinance requires that the employer have a physical location in St. Paul. If these requirements are met, employers with one or employees must provide paid leave. An exception allows new employers operating within the first six months after hiring their first employee to offer unpaid leave. This exception will expire on January 1, 2023.

What can I use sick leave for?

Like Minneapolis, employees must be allowed to take time off to care for themselves and their family members in the event of illness or injury. Employees may also take time off if: their child’s school has closed due to weather; they need or receive assistance for domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking; or the employee’s place of work has been closed by a public health official.

How is sick leave accrued?

Like Minneapolis, employers must provide one hour for every thirty hours worked, capped at 48 hours per year, and employees begin earning sick and safe time at the start of employment (or when the ordinance went into effect). Employees can carry over unused sick and safe time, but employers can limit hours carried over to the following year to 80 hours.  

When can I start using my earned sick leave?

Employees can begin using sick and safe time 90 days after employment began, and there is no cap on the usage in a year. The employer can set the time increments of usage, but the increment must not exceed four hours.

Similar to Minneapolis, if the use is foreseeable, the employer can require advance notice of up to seven days. If it is not foreseeable, notice should be given as soon as it is practicable. Additionally, St. Paul allows employers to require employees to comply with their usual notice requirements, as long as it does not interfere with the purpose of the ordinance.

No Retaliation

Like Minneapolis, an employer may not retaliate against employee for exercising or attempting to exercise their rights under the ordinance.

Duluth

Am I covered by the ordinance?

The Duluth ordinance is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020, so there could be some changes to it before it becomes effective. As of now, however, the ordinance will require all employers with five or more employees to provide paid sick and safe time to employees who are either based in Duluth and/or work in Duluth for more than 50% of their worktime in a twelve-month period.

What can I use sick leave for?

The uses for sick and safe time in Duluth are more limited than the St. Paul or Minneapolis ordinances. Employees can use their leave for their own or a family member’s illness or injury, to receive or assist a family member in receiving medical care, or for absence due to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of either themselves or a family member.

How is sick leave accrued?

Accrual also differs from Minneapolis and St. Paul. Employers must provide one hour for every fifty hours worked, up to 64 hours a year. Employees must be allowed to carry over up to 40 hours of unused Safe and Sick Time, but there is no cap on total accrued time. Employees will begin earning Safe and Sick Time at the start of their employment, or when the ordinance goes into effect.

When can I start using my earned sick leave?

Employees can start using their earned leave after 90 days of employment, however, employers can limit the usage of this time to 40 hours per year.

Similar to St. Paul, if the use is foreseeable, the employer can require advance notice of up to seven days. If it is not foreseeable, notice should be given as soon as it is practicable. Additionally, Duluth allows employers to require employees to comply with their usual notice requirements, if that requirement does not interfere with the purpose of the ordinance.

No Retaliation

Like Minneapolis and St. Paul, an employer may not retaliate against employee for exercising or attempting to exercise their rights under the ordinance.

Minnesota

If you don’t live in any of these three cities, employers are not required to provide paid sick and safe leave. However, covered employers may still be required to provide unpaid time off to employees under either federal or state laws, including the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Minnesota Pregnancy and Parental Leave Law.

If an employer chooses to provide personal sick leave, the state also imposes additional requirements as to how they do that. Minnesota’s sick leave statute covers employers who have more than 21 employees at one site and employees who have worked for the employer at least half-time for at least twelve months. Whether the sick and safe leave is paid or unpaid, your employer must allow you to take time off to care for an ill or injured minor child, adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or stepparent. Employers also must allow for employees to take time off to receive assistance themselves, or provide their relatives with assistance because of sexual assault, domestic abuse or stalking. Minn. Stat. § 181.9413 (2019).

Employers may limit the use of sick and safe leave to 160 hours in a 12-month period for care of a family member other than a minor child.

While current Minnesota law is not as broad or inclusive, legislative proposals have been introduced to enact sick and safe leaves for all Minnesotans similar to the ordinances of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers
Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is committed to protecting the rights of all employees who have been treated unfairly by the illegal practices of their employers. If you believe your leave of absence rights have been violated, we want to hear from you. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

The summary chart below compares the ordinances of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.